Healthcare Solutions Needed Now

Medicaid expansion is an absolute necessity. The expansion will also address treatment for recovery. Some who object, feel it will lead it to an increased burden on general fund revenues. At the end of the day, those not covered by the expansion will end up in emergency rooms where the cost is even higher to access healthcare. Right now, Maine has one of the largest percentages of uninsured people in the country.  In some cases, people who can’t afford to pay for healthcare – end up not getting any at all – and become sicker. The emergency rooms have become a dumping ground for all unmet care needs be they physical, mental, or those dealing with substance use disorder. As your state senator, I will work with other legislative leaders and the governor’s office to devise a plan that ensures access and works at reducing the costs of healthcare. There is a good article in Maine Biz that examines this closely.

Maine Seniors

Our Maine seniors are often living on fixed incomes which is why it’s important to take a hard look at property taxes. On a limited income, it’s making it harder and harder for them to make ends meet.  On the campaign trail, I have heard the state needs more than 10 thousand new units of affordable senior housing and there are more than 3900 seniors in Portland are trying to make ends meet with an average income of 14 thousand dollars a year. The cost of prescription drugs is too high for our seniors. A recent Maine Council on Aging report demonstrates the increased need that will occur in the next two decades. According to the report, one in four Mainers will be over the age of 65.  The report highlights the need for greater community-based solutions in terms of housing and employment.

Grow Our Economy

In Portland, we need to be a friendly place for business as Portland’s economic growth will attract and keep our young people here in Maine and expand our state’s tax base. The Greater Portland area accounts for over 50 percent of Gross State Product and 44 percent of total state employment, driving much of the state’s economic growth.  Portland also provides sales and income tax revenues needed to create economic opportunity throughout the state.

Portland has been successful with small business startups and the hospitality and culinary industry is robust – but we also need to incentivize business partnerships to spread prosperity outward, build on our competitive advantages such as access to Casco Bay and its islands, unrivalled natural beauty and a vital downtown community rich in the arts and music, invest in research and development (where Maine does poorly) to create jobs for the 21st century.  We need to reassess our manufacturing sector in Portland. Are we doing enough? We need to look at all sectors including manufacturing.  Statewide manufacturing jobs have dropped by 1.6%. A thriving economy in Portland along with a robust education system will make our educational system an integral part of the state’s long-term strategy for workforce development and economic revival.

Invest in Education Excellence

My parents were both public school teachers making this issue near and dear to my heart.  We need to support our public schools and our educators without breaking the backs of the taxpayers. It’s time for a much closer look at the school funding formula to figure out why Portland is being left behind. I feel strongly that funding needs to improve educational performance and directly benefit teachers and students.  I would support administrative consolidation that shows true cost savings. Those savings need to go back into the classrooms and to the educators.

School Safety

Photo from March for Our Lives. Poster reads: "It's Not Left or Right It's Life or Death."
March for Our Lives in Portland, Maine.

The public often becomes very engaged in school safety when a mass shooting has occurred. As we send our children back to school, and before it happens here, it is time to have a statewide conversation around what we can and should do to ensure the safety of our students.

I have been on the Maine Gun Safety Coalition Board since 2013 working on gun safety along with police chiefs, educators, victim advocates and concerned citizens.  We need to involve teachers, parents, schools, and the community in conversations around an approach to making all schools as safe as possible. I will never support arming teachers in the classrooms. We must find a better way. Involving Portland’s schools, teachers, students, first responders and the larger community in this conversation would an effective, critical first step. Creating a statewide plan would be a good second step.

Control Property Taxes

Portland has some of the highest property tax rates in the state. We must reduce property taxes by being more efficient with our services. We must prioritize our needs as we do in our own households every day.  We must find a way to increase revenue sharing at the state level so our seniors are not taxed out of their homes.

Address Opioid Addiction and Substance Use Disorder

We need a statewide plan to address opioid addiction but beyond that, we also need to address substance abuse. Medicaid expansion will help address some of the treatment issues which are currently lacking. The effects of living with an addict will address more treatment the stress of being an addict or living with an addict affects every element of a family.  Portland should not go this alone in search of a solution. We know that addiction is not fenced in by geography – it’s everywhere. However, when people can get services only in urban areas they naturally migrate to where they can get help.  This will take the work of the entire legislature and new administration to reach consensus and find workable solutions.  The Press Herald took a look at the number of opioid addicted babies over time.

Welcome Newcomers to Maine

Our immigrant population is important to the fabric of our community. There is a strong push to recognize why newcomers will be an economic benefit to Portland and Maine in the coming years because of our changing demographics – we are getting older and will need newcomers to help fill the gap.  Read more here: Press Herald report on immigrants economic contributions. From a very practical standpoint, we are an aging state in serious need of an influx of younger people and it is just common sense to welcome people who could help our state grow and prosper. We need to begin thinking about workforce development programs that deliver to a population of our newest arrivals.  Instead of looking at those programs as expenditures we need to look at them as investments. Investments in families. At the end of every successful workforce development program are jobs and those jobs turn into tax revenue. It allows people to become self-sufficient and that should be the goal for all Mainers.

Last year I was a part of the Principal for a Day program and spent time with recent arrivals. You can find more about this experience by clicking here.

Environment

As a community, having shared environmental values is critical to Maine’s future and economy. The beauty of Casco Bay and its islands is not only something that needs to be protected but is an important part of maintaining Portland as the economic engine of the state. We must be stewards of our environment not only for us but future generations. We need not look far to see the effects of climate change on our industries, particularly the lobster industry. We need to have a strong plan for protecting the environment as it is inextricably linked to the economy. I am also a strong supporter of renewable energy which I view as a necessity not an option.

Take the Independent Pledge

I don’t know about you but I am tired of the gridlock in Augusta and in our country. As an independent, I know what it will take to work. Certainly, there will be political disagreements but people expect legislators to find solutions. They expect legislators to get the job done regardless of party.

Often we hear politicians talking about which party will “win” a certain issue. That approach is about politics, not public service. I believe people would like the problems of state government solved and they don’t care which party gets it done – but they do care if nothing gets done.

Last year, several referendum questions were passed by the voters that should have been addressed by the legislature, but because of partisan gridlock, languished for years. I didn’t agree with all the referendum questions but I believe strongly that the will of the people needs to be respected. My pledge is to remain independent of the partisanship, to work across the aisle and to get the job done.

 

I’d like to hear from you.

These are all complicated issue and I would welcome your input on the issues. If you would like to send me your thoughts please email to votecanney@gmail.com.

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